I’d say that 2 days in Copenhagen isn’t enough and that 3 or 4 is more like it if you want to get a proper feel for the Danish capital, but if you’re pushed for time or you’ve been a few times then you can cram a fair bit into 2.
This was my fourth visit so I feel like I know Copenhagen quite well. It’s my all-time favourite city and one of the few cities I can see us living in. Everything about it is high quality, stylish and beautiful. This particular visit was in winter, so had a slightly different feel to it than previous trips I’ve done in autumn and spring, i.e. it was bloody freezing, but Copenhagen is built for cold weather so we survived pretty well. As ever, I LOVED my time there and didn’t want to leave. I did this trip as part of a multi-destinational week visiting Hamburg and getting a train between the two that WENT ONTO A FERRY. Yes, really.
I’ve written up everything we did in Copenhagen that I think you’d love too. But do bear in mind that this isn’t a full itinerary for a first-time visit. I’d already done most of the big must-do things in previous trips, so this is me revisiting my favourite things to do in Copenhagen. It was actually a really hard post to write, because how do I do my favourite city justice without writing War & Peace?!
Anyway, I’ll give you the lowdown on what to do in 2 days in Copenhagen but first I’ll give you a bit of a preamble and general city guide full of things you should know before you go…
Here’s some stuff to know before you to go Copenhagen…
Eating and drinking… and your bank balance
- Food wise, the two-Michelin-star restaurant Noma is the big deal in Copenhagen. It’s usually rated the best restaurant in the world but obviously it’s SO expensive. If it’s your dream to go, go for it.
- If you’re just after some New Nordic cuisine (as they call it), you can get fancy tasting menus with Noma-style foraging/experimentation going on for half the price. I love Radio for this. It’s about £100ish between us for 5 courses at lunchtime and totally worth it. Definitely the best ‘fancy’ meal I’ve ever had.
- For less fancy meals, there’s loads of extremely high quality food for a more affordable price, like Restaurant Puk for a traditional delicious smörgåsbord, or Restaurant Tight. You can also get brilliant street food in Copenhagen, but that could be a whole blog post in itself…
- Yes, alcohol in Denmark is expensive. Everyone bangs on about how expensive it is, but this is because it’s heavily regulated. You won’t need to be drunk to enjoy yourself in Copenhagen because it’s so brilliant, but if you do fancy some drinks, it’s possible to hunt out fairly cheap ones.
- Craft beer is expensive everywhere around the world. Copenhagen’s prices for it work out about the same as you’d pay in any other capital city but it has a much better selection, so you may as well drink that if you’re into it!
- If you do really like craft beer, Copenhagen’s famous microbrewery Mikkeller is unmissable. It does the hoppy IPA that’s v popular these days, but it does it better than most places we’ve been to in the world (and of course served in very stylish bars, because this is Denmark of course). There are several bars around the city but my favourite is on Viktoriagade (see further down).
There’s more to Copenhagen than its well-known sights
- The Little Mermaid statue may be a huge tourist draw, but she’s small and kind of pointless. She’s fine to go and look at just so you’ve done it, but don’t get too hyped. She’s usually surrounded by loads of tourists too, so if you’re after a photo with her then you’ll have to join the queue.
- Christiania, or ‘Freetown Christiania’ as it’s known, is Copenhagen’s alternative, self-governing and rather weed-filled community. I’ve been to quite a few of these ‘societies within societies’ in different cities around the world, but Christiania is probably the most well known/notorious. It’s not really my cup of tea, but if you want to see it, you can walk through. Just don’t take photos and remember it’s best to avoid behaving like an idiot if you can help it.
- Danish design is stunning. As you’re walking around Copenhagen, you’ll notice that everything is stylish, from chairs to lamp posts to road signs. Danish design is something special and just a few hours there will make you start to look at everything with a design-critical eye. In a good way! Everything is beautiful and so quintessentially Danish. It’s all just a bit perfect. You’ll want to go home and re-design your entire house/wardrobe/life to achieve that Scandi cool.
- Prepare to fall for Copenhagen. Big time. The first time I visited, I spent most of the first day walking around gawping at everything and wondering why I felt so weirdly at home. Denmark is always making the headlines for being one of the happiest countries in the world for various reasons: everyone spending time in nature, proper healthcare, good education, relative equality/fairness in society, people valuing time together over money/materialism and so on. It’s a combination of all of those things and more probably, but I always feel incredibly calm and content in Copenhagen. It’s not often a bustling city has that effect on me.
- Finally, almost every single person in Copenhagen is ridiculously and annoyingly attractive. You will leave feeling like a fat hag. Soz about that.
Hope that gives you a bit of an overview and explains why I’m so in love with this city. Onto my little itinerary for spending 2 days in Copenhagen, Denmark…
Day 1: exploring, shopping and eating
The big thing to see is Nyhavn, Copenhagen’s colourful harbour. If you do a Google image search for ‘Copenhagen’, this is the most likely scene to pop up. It’s worth the hype. Make sure your camera/phone is charged if you’re heading there because it’s beautiful in every direction. I normally stay at the Best Western Plus Hotel City Copenhagen, which is just behind Nyhavn, purely so that I can walk up and down it first and last thing every day (and no, the hotel isn’t paying me or sponsoring the blog to say that – I bloody wish it was though!).
Nyhavn is picture-perfect and has all of the colourful buildings that Instagram dreams are made of, but most of the cafés and bars lining the canal are aimed at tourists. Therefore, I wouldn’t recommend eating there. It’s fine for a drink and a people watch though, before an inevitable photo shoot on the bridge.
On this particular trip I’m writing about, I started off in my usual way – walking down iconic Nyhavn. I’d really recommend doing this to start your trip. If you walk to the bottom (towards the sea) and go right, you’ll pass a restaurant and then there are some trampolines built into the pavement. Enjoy.
Exploring and a free walking tour
You’ll probably want to get a general overview of the city if it’s your first time there. As this wasn’t mine, I dived straight into waddling to all my favourite bits to see what had changed.
If it’s your first, I’d really recommend a free walking tour. A tour will get your bearings and show you the big sights that you can reach on foot.
There’s a 3-hour tour that covers all the big hits and although it sounds long, it’s actually a very efficient use of time if you only have 2 days in Copenhagen because you’ll cram almost everything into one afternoon and then if something warrants a closer explore, you can go back to it later in your own time. It’s also free, and anything free in Copenhagen is something to be clung onto enthusiastically – although of course you should leave a tip.
Lunch at Souls Nørreport
For lunch, our first proper meal of this particular weekend I’m on about here, I’d hunted out Souls Nørreport.
This a vegan café in (unsurprisingly) the Nørreport area of the city. As well as being vegan, all their food is organic and sustainable, and there are plenty of healthy options… as well as deliciously unhealthy ones. Even if you’re not vegan, I’d massively recommend this for lunch as it’s very affordable, beautiful inside and some of the best food I’ve ever had.
I had a winter salad that Chris has since tried to re-create at home, I was that obsessed with it. Chris had a pancake brunch featuring the devil’s work (banana) so that had to be kept well away from me #vom.
Souls’ slogan is ‘eat like you give a fork’. I love places that focus on local, ethical food – lovely stuff.
After lunch, we headed to my favourite street/area in the whole of Copenhagen.
There’s nothing to do there but I go every time. It’s just a street. But look at it.
No matter what the weather is up to, walking down colourful, bicycle-lined Krusemyntegade is the epitome of Copenhagen life to me. Below I’ve included a photo from my most recent trip that I’m writing about here and one from about six years ago when it was blazing sunshine and about 25 degrees (here’s what you could have won etc), just to show how lovely it is in any weather.
Nyboder (and specifically, Suensonsgade)
Nyboder is just around the corner from Krusemyntegade (in fact, Krusemyntegade might technically be part of it I think). It’s an historic area of terraced houses that were former barracks for the navy, originally kicked off by Christian IV in 1631. Over the years, it’s grown and developed up and down.
It’s famous for its deep ochre yellow colour, which is known as ‘Nyboder yellow’ in Danish design. But, fun fact: the original houses were red and white. I don’t think that would look as pretty, personally. Anyway, if you’re in the area, it’s worth a look and is pleasing on the old eye.
The Design Museum
Right, enough faffing about taking photos of pretty streets.
If you’re into interior design, the Design Museum is bloody fascinating. And if you’re new to Danish Design, it’s an absolute must-do. You may be overwhelmed by chairs, but you’ll never look at chairs in the same way again. Danish design is all about bringing quality and style into everyday living, and the museum walks you through every aspect of that.
It’s 115DK to get in, and I think we spent nearly 2 hours there. Deffo worth it. They also have a wonderful café, where I took the below steamy photo after coming into the cosiness from freezing conditions outside…
Christiansborg Tower or the Round Tower Rundetaarn
A city break is incomplete without climbing up a tower to look over the city from a great height.
You have two main options for this in Copenhagen:
- Christiansborg Palace Tower – This is free to access and there’s a lift. It’s the one we did on our last trip, but we’ve done both over the years. I really liked the art display of pigeons projected onto the walls inside. The view is really good from the top and you can combine the whole thing with visiting the palace itself. Oh and this is also the highest tower in the city. I’m really selling it to you here, but I actually slightly prefer the other…
- The Round Tower (Rundetaarn) – This is 25DK to get in and you have to walk all the way up (and down). However, if you’re feeling up to it it’s well worth doing. It’s technically an observatory rather than just a random tower and was built in the 17th century. The view is gorgeous but the inside of the tower is rather atmospheric too, being all painted white and not bad for photos.
Shopping (at places you can’t get at home, obvs)
A trip to Copenhagen would be incomplete without pushing your luggage allowance to its limit (and beyond) by spending way too much money on stuff to take home.
I’m yet to find a clothes shop I can afford, other than the usual Scandinavian high street brands (think H&M, Vila, Vero Moda, Monki, Weekday) but you can get all of them in the UK so there’s no point wasting precious travel time there.
I tend to focus more on home stuff. For browsing, Illums Bolighus is stunning. It’s like the Liberty of Scandinavia (but much nicer) and is full of amazing design. Of course, there’s expensive and gorgeous furniture everywhere but I’m not sure what EasyJet would say about trying to fit a table into hand luggage so I usually look for small household accessories. My favourite shop for these is without a doubt Notre Dame.
If you only go in one shop in Copenhagen, I’d recommend you make it this one. It’s gorgeous, affordable (a mug was about £7 which is a steal in Denmark) and most of it will fit happily into a suitcase. If you’re there around Christmas time, their Christmas decorations are the best I have ever seen. They don’t ship to the UK on their website, so if you like something, BUY IT (my motto in life TBH).
Fine dining at Marv & Ben
We’ve eaten at loads of amazing places in Copenhagen over the years, most notably our firm favourite Radio but we wanted to try somewhere new for a tasting menu. A brief bit of googling led me to Marv & Ben on Snaregade.
We had a 6-course menu for 600DK each, which is obviously a treat meal but when in Copenhagen you have to try some Nordic fanciness don’t you. We ended up sat behind Ian Stirling of Love Island fame and Laura Whitmore, which was one of my best celebrity spots of all time, even better than seeing Peter from Corrie roughly once a month in the train station by my office…
The food was delicious – the usual inventiveness you get with New Nordic cuisine, lots of foam and that kind of thing. The surrounding felt special but not pretentious at all, with a good relaxed atmosphere. You can also book online, which is handy.
Drinks at the cosiest bars in Copenhagen
After our meal and celeb spotting, we had drinks just round the corner at Tyskenhavn. This bar is absolutely perfect if you’re in Copenhagen in winter because it’s below street level, only little and very dark, snug and cosy inside. It has a really good craft beer selection if you’re into that, but it also does wine and cocktails. I could happily live in it.
After that, we had a drink in a little wine bar just round the corner from our hotel called Den Vandrette. It supplies wine to some of the fancy restaurants in the city, so it’s got an excellent selection. Obviously, it’s perfect for if you’re staying in the Best Western but even if you’re not, it’s worth seeking out because it’s just off Nyhavn so couldn’t be better for a post-eating stroll down the harbour.
Day 2: a lot of art and craft beer
Louisiana Museum of Modern Art: getting there
I’ve wanted to go to Louisiana art museum for years, but it’s very much a day trip kind of place and we’ve never had time on previous visits to Copenhagen. You really need to set aside most of a day for it, but it’s so worth it.
Louisiana is on the shore of the Øresund Sound in Humlebæk, an old fishing village 25 miles north of Copenhagen. Public transport being its excellent self in Denmark means that it’s dead easy to get there by train. We got the ØR at København H (Tivoli) toward Helsingør. The stop is Humlebæk St. and it takes about 30 mins. You can save a bit of money by getting a combined train/museum ticket. Check the DSB site for up-to-date costs.
Side note: I really enjoyed Humlebæk station as a building.
Louisiana Museum of Modern Art: the visit
I’ve never been to an art museum inside such a non-museumy building. It’s basically a large white villa overlooking the sea and you wouldn’t know it was anything but an ordinary (if there is such a thing) mansion from the outside.
Apparently it’s named Louise after the first, second and third wives of the man who commissioned the building. I suppose he had a type at least…?!
Inside, there are various permanent collections and ever-changing exhibitions. You can easily spend hours absorbed in it. There’s an outdoor area with a sculpture park and gorgeous views of the sea, too. This was agonisingly cold in November (it actually started to snow as we walked round), so if you’re visiting in winter just brace yourself for that.
I won’t spoil it for you by describing it all too much, but there are works by Picasso, Andy Warhol and Henry Moore. My favourite thing was an exhibition about the moon, which is on until 20 January 2019. It mixed art, video, sculpture, literature, history AND science in one massively interesting and beautiful show.
Lunch at Louisiana’s café
OMG, the café. Why are museum/gallery cafés always so good?
We had delicious homemade rye bread, soup, a tart and a cake, all of which was top notch. They didn’t have to do such brilliant food because obviously they have a captive audience, but it says a lot about the general high standard of Danish food that they went all out with some of the nicest grub we had all holiday. Don’t be put off by the queues. The café is popular (especially at a weekend) but service moves quickly and it’s worth the brief wait.
I did have to fight for a table though. Apologies to the Chinese tourists who thought they were going to get it… I was too quick. You snooze, you lose.
A brief trip to the seaside
After lunch, we did the second half of the museum (it really is a whopper) before venturing back out into the snow/sleet to have a look at the Humlebæk coast.
You can get right at the coast by walking along the path in the grounds (it’s pretty self-explanatory once you’re there) and down the steps to the sea. It’s a rocky coastline with lots of stony ‘piers’ going out to sea, where local fishermen were casting their lines while we faffed about setting up self-timer on the camera like absolute tourists.
I imagine it would be lovely in warm weather but it was er, fresh in November. I quite like that though. There was a really nice view down the coast, and you could have walked quite far along if it hadn’t been gale-force winds.
Evening drinks in the MeatPacking district
After we’d had our fill of art and sea, we got the train back to Copenhagen via a cup of tea and a cinnamon bun in a café in Humlebæk.
It was about 5pm at this point so given that we were knackered from sea air and a full day out, there was nothing for it but to get back onto the craft beers.
I really wanted to go back to the MeatPacking district because we’d briefly done it on previous trips to Copenhagen but never ended up with enough time there. The MeatPacking district used to just be home to Copenhagen’s meat industry warehouses, hence the name, but it’s now a very hip bar/restaurant/art/shopping area.
The aforementioned Mikkeller has a general store in the MeatPacking district, selling their own brand of chocolate and loads of merchandise. We already have quite the collection of glasses and stuff, so I just posed with their bicycle (when in Copenhagen…) before we headed into Warpigs.
Warpigs craft beer is really good. Their brewpub in the MeatPacking district is a large industrial-chic space, with loads of locals there at a weekend. It had an excellent atmosphere and I had a really good people watch as well. They serve food, but it’s all BBQ-style meat so not our thing. We still managed to spend a couple of hours there sampling various IPAs…
My favourite bar in Copenhagen: Mikkeler on Viktoriagade
We ended up eating just outside the meatpacking district in BOB – BioMio Organic Bistro, which was good but I completely forgot to photograph it. Possibly because I was looking forward to post-food drinks too much…
We headed to the Mikkeler bar on Viktoriagade, which as already established is my favourite of all their bars. There’s something very cosy about it. I think I have a thing for bars/pubs that are below street level. As you approach, the light and bustle inside that beckons you in through its windows are everything you need to know about Denmark’s famous hygge.
Mikkeler’s beer selection is always changing, although there are usually all their main beers on tap. My tipple is always anything sour, and they do this really well.
I actually ended up crying in this bar because it was our last night and it felt like it’d all gone really fast. I am 32. But I didn’t want to go home 🙁
Other itinerary options or things to do in Copenhagen next time
- Go to the National Gallery of Denmark. Obviously, we did Louisiana on this visit so we a) didn’t have time for this and b) may possibly have got arted out. But if you have the capacity, you should deffo go. It’s beautiful modern art in a striking brick building. Years after my first visit, it’s still the best gallery I’ve ever been to. I tend to do one in every city I visit so that’s kind of high praise… Don’t get me wrong, I LOVED Louisiana but the National Gallery holds a special place in my heart. It also has a life-size horse sculpture (or it did when I last went).
- Look for the Mermaid and his seven sons. It’s a bronze underwater statue collection. One of the things that amazes me about Copenhagen is how clear the water is, and this sculpture highlights it because you can REALLY see it. It’s also much less busy than the aforementioned Little Mermaid sculpture and a bit more interesting in my opinion.
More stuff to explore
- Wander round Nørrebro for modernist streetscapes and all the hip cafés. This is one of my favourite parts of the city, and you’ll naturally spend time there as part of your visit, but I always leave wanting more.
- One of my favourite things is the Botanical Garden, but we didn’t have the time to visit on this particular trip. It’s a complex of 27 beautiful glasshouses, set in outdoor gardens. You can do the gardens for free, which is nice in summer, but it’s 60DK to get into the glasshouses. It’s full of beautiful photo opportunities, especially the Victorian spiral staircase within the biggest glasshouse.
- Tivoli is one of the main attractions in Copenhagen. It’s a sort of vintage amusement park that originally inspired Disney World, but it’s much classier and also has beautiful gardens. When I’m in Copenhagen, I usually skip it in favour of other stuff, but if it’s your first visit, you might want to go and see it – especially if you’re there in winter when they go to town with light displays at night. I’ve not included it in this itinerary, but it’s easy to find.
- Visit Kastellet (the citadel), which is an old fortress surrounded by a deep moat. It’s got real working military buildings inside it, but it’s a perfect thing to do on a sunny day because it’s all outdoor and there’s a picture-perfect windmill. Watch out for the unfriendly geese though.
- Take the train to Malmö in Sweden via the Øresund Bridge (made super famous by The Bridge, of course). Malmö is one of my other favourite cities – it’s simply beautiful. You can see its famous Turning Tower (you’ll recognise it!) and walk along the beach. I think Malmö is worth a couple of days in itself to be honest because there’s plenty to do and see there, but if you’re really pressed for time and want to ‘tick off’ Sweden as another country, you can just visit for an afternoon.
- The Carlsberg brewery is well worth doing, even if like me you hate Calsberg beer. They have Jutland horses on site, who still deliver the beer around Copenhagen. You can see their stables and stroke them – they’re very well looked after, which as a horsey person is always my main concern whenever we visit horsey attractions. You can do a brewery tour, which was pretty interesting. But the horses were the main draw for me.
Useful information: 2 days in Copenhagen, Denmark
How to get there (and away)
We always fly from Manchester, which takes about 2 hours. Once you’re at the airport, you can get the metro direct into the city centre in around 15 minutes. It’s dead easy.
Where to stay
Best Western Plus Hotel City Copenhagen is my go-to hotel in Copenhagen and we’ve stayed here on every trip. The location is absolutely perfect: it’s right by Nyhavn so you can walk down it first thing every morning before it gets busy and last thing at night to ‘work off’ all the food and drink you’ve consumed while enjoying the twinkliness of the harbour at night. The first time we stayed there, I wasn’t expecting it to be so good considering it was cheaper than most other hotels in the city and was just a Best Western which are generally just ‘fine’ and kind of standard. However, I was dead pleased – lovely bathroom, surprisingly nice breakfast, spotless room… no faults at all. I normally stay in independent B&Bs or apartments but unless you fancy remortgaging the house, that’s pretty tricky in Copenhagen.
The Best Western price varies but I’ve had it for as little as £130 a night (ouch I know, but this is affordable for Copenhagen I’m afraid!). It was so good that I then booked it for our next two trips there, so I can confirm that it’s been good over a sustained period, which is a reassuring thing. The lifts are quite noisy so if you were right by them you might be able to hear them, but that’s easily avoided: just pop a note on your booking asking for a room away from them. That’s what I’ve always done and it’s been fine.
How to get around
Copenhagen is really walkable. EVERYONE cycles, so if you’re confident on a bike then hiring one wouldn’t be a bad idea, especially if you only have 2 days in Copenhagen and want to nip around like a local. I have never done this because I’m only at home in the equestrian kind of saddle and would probably end up in the sea if I attempted to ride anything but a horse. Public transport is excellent though and will take you everywhere you need to go.
When to go
I think Copenhagen in winter was beautiful for this trip, it’s really colourful beneath a moody grey sky and as a city it’s definitely built for keeping cosy with plenty of indoor things to do and cosy cafés to stop off in. However, I’ve been twice in spring and I have to say Copenhagen really comes into its own then. There’s so many gardens and walks to do and a boat tour won’t cause (as much) hypothermia.
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